The thinking, I believe, is that the DRC is the most representative body in the FA (save the full membership itself, of course), but also has the ability to coordinate with other locals, and to respond to any changes in the bargaining situation (things the full membership could not do itself). The DRC vote is a major step forward in preparation for a strike, and the membership vote would be a still greater one. If members approve the measure, they will give their elected representatives the authority to call a strike on their behalf.
The September 28th date was chosen in part to allow for adequate time to educate the membership further about the issues at stake, and to help coordinate with other campus unions, which are also moving toward strike authorization votes on or around that time.
At the General Membership Meeting itself, the FA bargaining team made its case that numerous major issues remain to be resolved, and that the administration has thus far been unwilling to compromise on any of them, despite hours of meetings. It is their unanimous judgement that continued negotiations will almost certainly be fruitless without further pressure from the full FA membership that goes well beyond the informational picketing and other events held on campus over the last months.
Members would be called upon to vote again should a contract offer be approved by the FA bargaining team and the DRC and presented for their approval.
While no one said this in so many words at the meeting tonight, and while all hope that we can get a fair contract without a strike, I think it is accurate to say that the thinking of the DRC is as follows: unless the administration begins to negotiate in earnest, if presented with the authority to call a strike, the DRC would indeed call a strike for some date not long after September 28th.
Preparations for a strike have been under way for some time, and will accelerate in coming weeks. Efforts to educate and mobilize the membership will also pick up, and a membership recruitment drive, which has already shown promising results, will continue. An official press release should come out tomorrow morning, and no doubt Randy Hughes will issue an official statement on the vote sometime soon as well. But its easy to get the scoop when you've just run the meeting yourself. (By the way, when I hedge with "I believe" in this post--and elsewhere--I'm not being coy: I'm marking something as my own view, but not something that I know for a fact to be FA policy. Just trying to be clear, folks.)
As a result of these developments, I've moved the strikeometer® forward by a few minutes.
If you have questions about the issues at stake, now is the time to get them answered. This blog is one unofficial resource; and I will continue to answer as many questions as I can in the comment stream here (and of course others also provide invaluable information and insight in the comments as well). The fine SIUC Unions United site combines blog-style updates on events with official pronouncements from the various unions and links to their sites. The revamped FA website contains full documentation on administration and FA positions, as well as the FA's own attempts at distilling the major differences between the two sides. (To be honest, I still find much of the information easier to find on the old website, under "bargaining information".) Better still, speak to your DRC rep, or to anyone else you know who has been active in the union. I am preaching to the choir here, no doubt, but while the unions have an obligation to provide information to their members, we unionists can no more guarantee that members master our material than all of us, as teachers, can guarantee that students will learn what we try to teach in class. There is a responsibility on both sides.
I paste the official motion passed tonight below:
Resolved: The Departmental Representatives Council (DRC) calls for a vote of the Faculty Association membership on September 28th to authorize a strike and empower the DRC to initiate a strike.